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Today, History is Written by the Stereotypers August 19, 2006

Posted by federalist in Social Politics.

This article on how public school textbook makers deal with diversity quotas is a lot of fun.

Amusingly, it’s not enough for pictures to represent statistical reality, or even the desired reality.  Textbooks today have to strive to reflect the appearance of the desired reality.

This means that pictures of real Hispanics have to be scrapped if they don’t look Hispanic enough.  American Indians can stand in for Pacific Islanders, and vice versa.  And non-handicapped models are seated in wheelchairs to meet quotas for depicting “disabled” children.


McGraw-Hill’s 2004 guidelines for artwork and photos say Asians should not be portrayed “with glasses, bowl-shaped haircuts, or as intellectuals”; African-Americans should be shown “in positions of power, not just in service industries”; elderly people should be “active members of society,” not “infirm”; and disabled people should be shown as independent rather than receiving help.

An older McGraw-Hill manual — which a company spokeswoman says is “still relevant” as guidance — discourages depicting Asian-American males as waiters, laundry owners or math students, or showing Mexican men wearing ponchos or wide-brimmed hats. African-Americans should not be portrayed in “crowded tenements on chaotic streets” or in “innocuous, dull, white picket fence neighborhoods,” but in “all neighborhoods, including luxury apartments.”

For a spread on world cultures, one major publisher vetoed a photo of a barefoot child in an African village, on the grounds that the lack of footwear reinforced the stereotype of poverty on that continent, according to an employee familiar with the situation. It was replaced with a photo of a West African girl wearing shoes and a gingham dress.

Some textbooks shortchange depictions of important historical figures. As submitted to Texas for adoption in 2002, McGraw-Hill’s “The American Republic Since 1877” included a profile and photo of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot. But there was no mention or image of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. After a Texas activist who advocates for more patriotic textbooks complained, McGraw-Hill added a passage and photo about the Wrights. A company spokeswoman said the brothers had been left out inadvertently.



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